Herschel and Planck Set to Launch on May 14

Article written: 28 Apr , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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The European Space Agency announced today that the Herschel and Planck spacecraft will now launch on May 14. Liftoff had been delayed to allow time for additional checks on the Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle. The two spacecraft are launching together in what was originally a cost saving move, but the complexity of preparing two spacecraft at once has caused frequent delays and cost overruns. However, now that the launch is near, hopefully the cutting-edge technologies included in both spacecraft will soon pay off in new discoveries astronomy and cosmology.

The Herschel Space Observatory’s primary mirror is the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. At 3.5-meters in diameter the mirror will collect long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. The mirror is also a technological wonder: it uses 12 silicon carbide petals fused together into a single piece. Herschel will be the only space observatory to cover a spectral range from the far infrared to sub-millimeter.

Launch configuration for the Herschel and Planck spacecraft. Credit: ESA

Launch configuration for the Herschel and Planck spacecraft. Credit: ESA


Planck is designed to image the anisotropies of the Cosmic Background Radiation Field over the whole sky, with unprecedented sensitivity and angular resolution. It will provide a major source of information relevant to several cosmological and astrophysical issues, such as testing theories of the early universe and the origin of cosmic structure.

The two satellites are being prepared for launch and recently were both fueled with hydrazine. Planck’s three-stage active cryogenic cooler, needed to keep the instruments at extremely cold temperatures, has been filled with helium-3 and helium-4. Herschel’s cryogenic tanks are also being filled with superfluid helium.
Herschel and Planck will liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana

Source: ESA


5 Responses

  1. tacitus says

    Fingers crossed… both hands…!

  2. Astrofiend says

    Sweet baby Jesus! I’ve been looking forward to these missions for some time now. Plank in particular – time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

    tacitus Says:
    April 28th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    “Fingers crossed… both hands…!”

    I’m crossing every damn appendage I have! Don’t ask me how…

  3. Jon Hanford says

    With the Hubble repair mission and the successful launch of Planck and Herschel observatories, May should be an exciting month for astronomers everywhere, amateurs and pros.

  4. SweeneyTodd says

    “With the Hubble repair mission and the successful launch of Planck and Herschel observatories, May should be an exciting month for astronomers everywhere, amateurs and pros.”

    i agree , and it will be an exciting near future to come , in big time discoveries !

  5. Lawrence B. Crowell says

    Go Planck! And Herschel as well. We need more CMB data. There are possible kertosis data out there for cosmic strings!

    L. C.

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